Scourge of the Howling Horde



alt

Scourge of the Howling Horde

Author: Gwendolyn F. M. Kestrel
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Level: 1st level PCs
ISBN: 0-7869-3935-4
Pages: 32
Rating: 6 out of 10
Retail Price: $14.95

 

The Scourge of the Howling Horde is a fairly new adventure from Wizards of the Coast, built specifically for introducing new DMs and new players to the game. Unless I miss my guess, this is the second non-campaign-specific adventure that Wizards of the Coast has released since the 3.5 update, with the first being Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. The adventure is designed for a 1st level party, though I can’t see the need for much change if a 2nd level party were to run through it.

Being an introductory adventure, the premise is extremely basic. Goblins are terrorizing a local village and a call for brave heroes has been put out. I would like to have seen other plot hooks, especially considering that the target audience is new DMs, but if the DM is as green as the adventure seems to indicate, then plot hooks are the last thing they need to worry about. The basic plot continues with the goblins being under the control of a dragon that is making them terrorize the village to increase her holdings. Add to that the fact that the meat of the adventure takes place in a cave and you’ve got an extremely basic, if somewhat generic plot.

While the adventure’s simplicity is really good for new players and DMs, I do have two complaints. The first is that there are several minor errors in many of the stat blocks, stemming mostly from the fact that the opponents are pulled from the Monster Manual, but then advanced or changed without the blocks being properly updated (this is most evident in the skill selections). This probably wouldn’t be noticed by a new DM, and probably wouldn’t be much of a problem during the course of the adventure (except perhaps for the dragon’s stats, which give her an attack bonus 2 points higher than it should be), but this is exactly the sort of thing I would have hoped the designers would have been careful to avoid, given that new DMs trying desperately to understand the rules are going to be running this adventure. My second complaint is that the designers took great pains to make each section fit on a single page. While this sounds like a good idea, the problem stems from the fact that the stat blocks -already the “new” format that I hate- have been condensed further, which includes the removal of hit dice and some skill information. This could be a problem for a new DM, since some spells that the party might have access to (namely sleep) require the DM to know how many HD are present in the area.

This adventure is not without its problems (mostly present in stat blocks), but its simple design is probably more of a boon than a hindrance, given the target audience. A new DM that wanted to learn more about monster stats could easily make his bones correcting the minor errors in the stat blocks. The adventure constantly points out page listings for related topics (such as locations in the Monster Manual or where to find information about damage reduction), which would be very useful to a new DM. At the end of the day, I think the good outweighs the bad, and so long as the reader is willing to take a bit of initiative to correct the stat blocks, this adventure could be a great starting point for a group of new players.